Now’s her time: post-Sleater-Kinney,
the Portland rocker – and rockin’ mom – returns to music with the Corin Tucker
BY STEVE KLINGE
“Maybe my life would be simpler if I didn’t love pop music
so much,” says Corin Tucker. She’s at home in Portland, and it’s naptime for
her young daughter. Fortunately for us, Tucker’s love of music couldn’t keep
her away forever, and now, four years after she and Carrie Brownstein and Janet
Weiss agreed to put Sleater-Kinney on “hiatus,” she’s back with her first solo
album, 1000 Years. And she’s ahead of
Brownstein and Weiss, whose new project Wild Flag should have an album out next
Although she says she’s thought about doing a solo album for
over a decade, what’s kept her away until now has been more logistical than
anything else. She couldn’t see taking the time to record and tour (and do
interviews) while raising two young children and while her husband, filmmaker
Lance Bangs, was often away (recently, in Africa, where he directed the
acclaimed documentary The Lazarus Effect).
But a performance of a few songs at a benefit concert with her friend Seth
Lorinczi of the Golden Bears lead to recording an album in Lorinczi’s home
studio, with the help of drummer Sara Lund of Unwound. All three members of the
Corin Tucker Band have young children (Tucker also has a nine year old son).
1000 Years includes some new settings for Tucker’s powerhouse voice: acoustic guitar,
piano, strings, and other “weird stuff.” But the album also rocks, in ways
Sleater-Kinney fans will recognize. (Read our review of the album here.)
“It’s funny, we’re all of us in our late thirties, playing
these songs,” say Tucker. “But once we really go for it and play rock songs, we
could feel like we’re 22 again. You just have that moment when you get to
completely let yourself go and enjoy it. It’s so much fun.”
Tucker spoke with BLURT about finding time make a record while
being a mother, about missing the stage and about her love of music. And, oh yeah, about the possibility of a
BLURT: Was the intent
all along to do a solo record at some point?
TUCKER: Almost since the end of the nineties, it’s something
I wanted to do. But I’ve been really busy with the rest of my life, and really
enjoying it. I would sporadically play shows, by myself, and I did three or
four songs at a benefit, and a lot of my friends said, you should really make a
solo record. So, I just started working on it. Kill Rock Stars was interested
when I talked to them. I just made it plain: well, you know, I can’t do a big
rock’n’roll tour, but I can do a few shows. And they said, cool, let’s do it.
It just started from there, I guess.
It‘s interesting: you said your friends said
you should make a record. That seems obvious: yes, you should indeed make a
record. That’s not news to anybody.
Yeah, I feel, I guess
that it takes a lot of effort to plan and do a record these days. It is a
different world, the way the technology of music has really changed. In some
ways, I feel a little old-fashioned [laughs] in getting into the music business
part of things these days. In the same way, though, my love of music hasn’t
changed at all.
It’s more the business side of making the
record than making the music that was the hurdle?
Yeah, exactly. The
music part, the creative piece has always been something that has come pretty
naturally to me. But the business piece is much trickier.
So, was now just a good time to carve out the space in your life to do
things like this?
When I played that
show I was working with my friend Seth Lorinczi, and he and his wife Julianna,
who are in the Golden Bears, played on a couple of the songs. I immediately
felt really at ease working with him, and he has his own studio, and he had
recorded and engineered and produced these Golden Bears records. I was like,
you did that in your house? So, suddenly, a lightbulb went off: wait a minute,
we could make this record in his basement, while our children are at, you know,
playgroup or whatever. [laughs] That’s how we did it. It was a morning
schedule. I did try to carve out a space for myself around this different
schedule I have as a parent. It’s a different challenge, but it’s such a reward
for me to do something creative.
Does Seth have kids, too?
Yeah, he has a
daughter who is about a year older than my daughter. We have a lot in common.
We’ve also known each other for a really long time. He comes from the DC punk
rock scene. We have a shared musical history in a lot of ways.
I was going to ask how the band came together, but it seems it grew
kind of organically.
Seth and I worked on
the songs together for several months, then we asked Sara Lund to do drums and
percussion, because we’ve both know her for a very long time as well. She also
is a mom now, so we just had this little club, [laughs] that would happen Tuesday and Thursday mornings. 10:30
coffee, 11 rock music, and we’re done by 12:30, you know!
That’s funny. Did that have any impact on the way the music came out,
instead of doing full-time or late-night work on making the record?
I think this record
was very planned out, but we kept the spontaneous things that happened when we
were just playing together. It was a different process than any other process
I’ve worked on before. Most of the records that I’ve made were made in, I don’t
know, two weeks time start to finish, the writing, the recording, everything.
That rock’n’roll process is very limited, usually, because you have a really
limited amount of studio time that you can afford. So this was a really
different process, but I really enjoyed it. We were able to rework things and
really voice a lot of different instruments and different ideas because we had
time and leisure to work on things.
Is that part of the reason for the way the strings and things evolved?
I think I brought the
songs to Seth and he had a lot of production ideas that he wanted to take it to
the limit and go for all these different sounds. We definitely had some songs
as being, like, acoustic songs, and he brought the strings to “Dragon,” and had
all these different ideas for it. I really enjoyed stretching some of our ideas
to grand limit of what we could do.
Did you consciously choose to work in a trio setting again?
I think the three of
us, Seth and I and Sara, are really the heart of the band, we just made the
record the three of us in a little club, in a way. But we always thought we
would find one more person to play the live shows.
Was it a conscious thing to do something different from Sleater-Kinney
records when you were writing the songs?
I definitely wanted
to do something different from Sleater-Kinney, to do really different
instrumentation and do something I’d never done before. I’m really happy with
how it came out. Sometimes I was really resistant to some of Seth’s ideas. Like
on “Half a World,” he kept going: faster, faster, faster! That song when I
first wrote it was this really slow, sad song. It turned out completely
different. Once we played it as this fast rock song, and then Sara played on
it, and she just turned it on its head. She added the third dimension to the
record. She’s a really experienced percussionist at this point, she’s done a
lot of different things. I really like the way that song turned out when all
three of us played on it, it kinda gave it a life of its own.
That’s interesting – that’s one that rang a little bit closer to some
of the Sleater-Kinney songs to me, maybe because it got sped up from where it
started. Did you write a bunch of songs on piano?
No, I wrote them all
on guitar, then Seth would arrange them on piano, and he plays piano. I’ve
written a couple things on piano, but I usually write everything on guitar.
That’s what I had assumed, but a song like “Miles Away” sounds like a
Yeah, I know. That
one turned out really well. No, I wrote it on guitar. There is guitar on the
break, we kept that original part, but we took away the guitar for the rest of
Had you written on acoustic guitar in the past?
No, that was
something new that I really wanted to do: write with an acoustic guitar and
just write differently. Just to write with a different song style in mind,
something that could be quieter and have different dynamics and to give my
voice a different space to sing in. I really wanted to try that.
Is a song like “It’s Always Summer” a good example of that?
That was something that we really worked on to make it have a lot of different
dynamics that would sound good on the acoustic instruments.
Were the songs written over a long period of time?
It took me a long
time to write all the songs. It took me, really, a couple years of writing a
bunch of stuff, and rewriting. Then when Seth and I started working, we started
doing all the production and rewriting and changing all the tempos and
instrumentation, so, yeah, it took a really long time.
I was wondering if you had a backlog of songs
from all the years?
I’m not a prolific
writer anyway, but I’m so busy now that I had to force myself to write. But I
wanted to give myself time until I was ready and say, okay, I feel like I have
a body of songs that had something to say. So I took my time and wrote and kept
writing and rewriting until I had a good, I don’t know, eight or nine songs.
And then I wrote a couple more once Seth and I started doing production stuff.
And some were written for the Twilight film?
[laughs] Well, Lauren Ross works with Kill Rock Stars bands, and she
happened to mention in an email that she was pitching to the Twilight producers. I was really a fan
of those books, and so I wrote a couple demos and sent them along. They didn’t
pick them, but I kept them and played them for Seth. He said, oh yeah, we
should do something with those; that was “Miles Away” and “1000 Years.” We
kinda changed the production on them, but we kept the songs.
So you knew the Twilight books already?
entertaining. I was a big fan of the Anne Rice vampire books back in the day,
too. Those stories are really interesting, and I like that they’re from the
Are you a True Blood fan,
Yeah, I am [laughs].
It’s a little too over the top gory for me at times, but I love that show,
too. A guilty pleasure.
I mentioned to a friend when I first heard the
album and that it rocked out a lot, he was surprised, I guess because he was
expecting something more settled from someone who had gotten away from the
business and become a mom. Do you think people will be surprised by songs like
“Handed Love” and “Doubt” that are great loud rock songs? The acoustic songs
aren’t the whole record.
I think we wanted
that variety, we wanted both of those things to happen. Especially once we
played with Sara: we were like, oh yeah, she’s an amazing rock’n’roll drummer.
All of us have done other things and played in different bands, but when we did
“Doubt,” that song really brought the rock’n’roll aspect to the record. We had
so much fun. It’s funny, we’re all of us in our, like, late thirties, the three
of us, playing these songs. But once we really go for it and play rock songs,
we could feel like we’re 22 again. You just have that moment when you get to
completely let yourself go and enjoy it. It’s so much fun.
I was going to ask about being older and still
playing rock songs, but I’m older, too, and I still love to listen to songs
like that; they’re still a thrill. So it didn’t seem like something to
Yeah, I think that’s a
good thing about getting older; you have more experience to draw on, and you
have more eclectic musical tastes to draw on. I think that’s what helped us
make this record interesting.
With its lines about “dance to the boogie, dance to the beat,” “Doubt”
seems to be about the joy of rock’n’roll.
That song is really
about being in love with music and making music and not being able to stay away
from it. Maybe my life would be simpler if I didn’t love pop music so much, but
it really is so important to me. When you hit that song, it’s a really joyous
feeling, and you just want to go back to it again. Playing music and playing
live songs, I just really enjoy it, I guess.
What did you miss the most? The performing, the guitar playing, the
singing, being on stage?
All of it. All of the
above. I’m really looking forward to doing the shows. I think I really miss
performing a lot, and being able to connect to people and have someone say, I
love your music. That’s a huge thing to be able to make something that makes
other people happy, that’s a really amazing thing. We’re all looking forward to
playing the shows, and hopefully other people will be into the songs.
That’s something we Sleater-Kinney fans
struggled with. You guys were such a great band, and such a great live band,
and just to know that there wouldn’t be more records and shows was hard. Maybe
that’s the fan’s version of what you’re feeling, that sense of absence. When
you tour, will you have the kids with you? Is it going to be the family band?
Yeah, we’re bringing
our kids, so we’ll see. I did it with my son quite a bit, so I have some
experience to draw on. He is older now, so he’ll be in school and staying with
his dad. But we’re bringing the little ones. It’ll be insane, totally
insane. But it’ll be good. It’s short,
The Woods was a different
sort of Sleater-Kinney album. It seemed like either a new beginning or endpoint
when it came out. Was there any carryover from that sound into this record? I
hear a couple moments, maybe in “Big Goodbye,” that seems to have some of that
heavy guitar work that seemed different for you guys then.
I would say, I feel
like this record is really different, but at the same time, everything you do
carries over into the next thing. For me, it was more trying different sounds
and trying a little bit of the psychedelic guitar stuff, but using a lot of
different instruments to achieve it, too. I love all the keyboard stuff and the
weird stuff that Seth would find on the many, many instruments he has in his
basement. It was just a fun process of, what if we try this? It was an odyssey
for each song.
Does the new album seem like a new beginning
or a part of a progression from the past?
I think it definitely
feels like a new beginning, but at the same time all three of us have had
really great music experiences that we bring to the table and all those ideas
can be used again. That’s one of the good things about listening to records:
you pick out the things that you like from bands you’ve been in or other bands
you’ve heard. That’s kind of how you get ideas when you’re working in the
Have you been part of the Portland music scene
No, not very often. I
wish I could go out to more shows, but I’m pretty happy. I do go out and see
I have to ask you the obligatory questions: are you still in touch with
Carrie and Janet?
Oh yeah [laughs], we still talk about doing
something when everybody’s ready.
It seems like that’s inevitable at some point.
Yeah. I hope so. It
just has to be at the right time and logistics for everybody.
Any sense if that happened would it be to work on new songs or just to
get out and just play together again?
I don’t know, but I
get the sense that we would just get together and play together again, play
some shows. We’ll have to see.
I have to ask.
I know, I know.
Everybody is really busy now.
What’s life like being busy as a mom for you?
I do a lot of
driving. My daughter is about to wake up from her lap in about two minutes. It’s
very domestic, but it’s very fun. We went on vacation this weekend: we went to
LegoLand in San Diego. I’m really enjoying it.
Lance is on the road a lot, so it’s often all you?
It’s all me,
sometimes, yeah. He travels a lot for his work, so I have to kinda hold down
Some of that comes up on the distance references in songs on the
record, it seems.
Yeah, that’s my
outlet. [laughs] He’s done some really incredible work in this past year. He
did that film The Lazarus Effect in
Africa, so he’s done some really amazing stuff. And I’ve been the one to hold
down the fort and take care of the kids. But it’ll be my time to go out and do
something, so we take turns.
So now’s your time, I guess.
The Corin Tucker Band
tour started this week in Portland and wraps Oct. 28 in Philadelphia. Check
tour dates here.